Why Winter is the Best Time to Visit Iceland to See Northern Lights

Northern lights in the sky over three silhouettes of people
Björgvin Hilmarsson
The Northern lights dancing in the sky

The Northern Lights are a sight to behold and viewing them is a once in a lifetime experience for most people.

These impressionist strokes across the canvas of the winter sky take the breath away from any spectator. Naturally, people travel from across the globe to see such inspiring phenomena, and one must see it to believe the wonder. But what are the Northern Lights? And why is the winter the best time to visit Iceland to see Northern Lights?

What Are The Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are due to electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere. These charged particles gather around the north and south magnetic poles and this is why we can see them so clearly in Iceland, as we are so close to the North Pole. The Northern Lights come in various shades and hues. The most common colour seen in Iceland is a faint, dreamy green hue but sometimes we see deep purple and fiery red hues paint the night sky. These wonders of the universe continue to amaze and inspire awe as they orbit our daily lives.

The sight filled the northern sky; the immensity of it was scarcely conceivable. As if from Heaven itself, great curtains of delicate light hung and trembled. Pale green and rose-pink, and as transparent as the most fragile fabric, and at the bottom edge a profound and fiery crimson like the fires of Hell, they swung and shimmered loosely with more grace than the most skillful dancer.

Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (1997)

The Best Time To Visit Iceland To See Northern Lights

Nature is a force to be reckoned with and although it is hard to predict when the Northern Lights will appear there are a few things to keep in mind when planning a trip to see these wonders of Nature.

First of all, we must gaze at a clear night sky in order to see the Northern Lights. Sometimes there are active Northern Lights dancing above us but we cannot see them as the sky is not dark enough or there are too many clouds hiding our view. 

Secondly, we need the sun to be active and send us strong solar winds with these electrically charged particles that in turn, create these mesmerizing Northern Lights.

Therefore, winter in Iceland is a great time to visit this magical island and get a glimpse of these wonders of nature. The long, dark and still winter nights are a perfect setting for Northern Lights sightseeing. In fact, some active one day sightseeing activities include the legendary Glacier Walk & Northern Lights or the more relaxed Northern Lights Small Group Tour. If you set aside three or four days while visiting Iceland, you can embark on a Short Break Getaway along the south coast or our Hiking, Hot Springs Northern Lights tour which was mentioned as one of the Top 5 Hiking Tours in Iceland by TravelMag.

Your days will be packed with fun adventures, like going on a glacier walk, exploring stunning Ice caves, walking on black sand beaches and hunting for the Northern Lights. Cosy accommodations, like staying in a 4 star hotel, is included and you'll be far away from the strong lights in Reykjavík that make it harder to see the Aurora Borealis. The perfect end of the day is to enjoy the silence and watch the Northern Lights perform their magic

Sit back and enjoy the show.

Green aurora borealis over Seljalandfoss waterfall. Winter is the best time to visit Iceland to see Northern Lights
Inga Heiða Heimisdóttir
Seljalandsfoss and the Northern Lights

How to capture the Northern Lights

Seeing the Northern Lights is one thing but capturing a great photo of them is a whole other challenge. Check out our very detailed post on How to Capture the Northern Lights.

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About the Author

Inga Þórunn Waage

Inga Þórunn Waage

Inga Þórunn Waage is born in Iceland but has spent much of her adult life abroad in places such a South America, Australia, Barcelona, Dublin and her beloved Berlin. She has a BA and MA in English literature and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Iceland. She is married to a German artist and she has divided her life between Iceland and Germany for the past years - getting the best of both worlds. Her passion is for writing, wilderness, environmental preservation, horses, travel and the unknown. She is fortunate enough to be a part of the Icelandic Mountain Guide’s team as she gets the opportunity to write about matters dear to her heart. “If you’re doing it for money or fame, don’t do it.” Charles Bukowski

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